Archibald Thomas Robertson

First Thessalonians

From Corinth A.D. 50-51

By Way of Introduction

We cannot say that this is Paul’s first letter to a church, for in 2Th 2:2 he speaks of some as palming off letters as his and in 2Th 3:17 he says that he appends his own signature to every letter after dictating it to an amanuensis (Rom 16:22). We know of one lost letter (1Co 5:11) and perhaps another (2Co 2:3). But this is the earliest one that has come down to us and it may even be the earliest New Testament book, unless the Epistle of James antedates it or even Mark’s Gospel. We know, as already shown, that Paul was in Corinth and that Timothy and Silas had just arrived from Thessalonica (1Th 3:6; Act 18:5). They had brought supplies from the Macedonian churches to supply Paul’s need (2Co 11:9), as the church in Philippi did once and again while Paul was in Thessalonica (Phi 4:15.). Before Timothy and Silas came to Corinth Paul had to work steadily at his trade as tent-maker with Aquila and Priscilla (Act 18:3) and could only preach in the synagogue on sabbaths, but the rich stores from Macedonia released his hands and “Paul devoted himself to the word” (suneicheto tōi logōi Paulos). He gave himself wholly to preaching now. But Timothy and Silas brought news of serious trouble in the church in Thessalonica. Some of the disciples there had misunderstood Paul’s preaching about the second coming of Christ and had quit work and were making a decided disturbance on the subject. Undoubtedly Paul had touched upon eschatological matters while in Thessalonica. The Jewish leaders at Thessalonica charged it against Paul and Silas to the politarchs that they had preached another king, Jesus, in place of Caesar. Paul had preached Jesus as King of the spiritual kingdom which the Jews misrepresented to the politarchs as treason against Caesar as the Sanhedrin had done to Pilate about Jesus. Clearly Paul had said also that Jesus was going to come again according to his own promise before his ascension. Some asserted that Paul said Jesus was going to come right away and drew their own inferences for idleness and fanaticism as some do today. Strange as it may seem, there are scholars today who say that Paul did believe and say that Jesus was going to come back right away. They say this in spite of 2Th 2:1. where Paul denies having ever said it. Undoubtedly Paul hoped for the early return of Jesus as most of the early Christians did, but that is a very different thing from setting a time for his coming. It is open to us all to hope for the speedy return of Christ, but times and seasons are with God and not with us. It is not open to us to excuse our negligence and idleness as Christians because of such a hope. That hope should serve as a spur to increased activity for Christ in order to hasten his coming. So Paul writes this group of Epistles to correct gross misapprehension and misrepresentation of his preaching about last things (eschatology). It is a rare preacher who has never been misunderstood or misrepresented.

Taken from "Word Pictures in the New Testament" by Archibald Thomas Robertson